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Plus they had to make sure those two words were in big, bold red letters.

§ May 17th, 2024 § Filed under archie, giant-size man-thing, misfit toys, obituary § 13 Comments

Some very unexpected news this week came via a press release email I received the other day, announcing that Archie Comics was going to enter the facsimile game. You know, the exact reprints, usually ads an’ all, of classic comics at, ahem, current prices. Usually printed on better paper, which is nice, and sometimes they come with a foil cover variant (which I personally may be collecting all of for Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths, because apparently I’m a magpie).

To be fair, Archie doing facsimile editions isn’t that much of a surprise, given 1) facsimiles actually sell pretty well, at least for me, sometimes better than the current comics featuring the same characters/concepts; and 2) Archie is nothing if not a giant reprint engine, recycling their giant back catalog of comics endlessly through paperbacks and digests.

What is a surprise is the comic they’re using to kick off this new project…the infamous Betty and Me #16 from 1968:


It’s all your fault, anyway, reading this perfectly innocent cover and making it dirty in your filthy minds. I know what you people are like.

Now whether or not this was an intentional dirty gag that the creators of the image (artist: the legendary Dan DeCarlo) tried to sneak by the editors for their own amusement, I’ll let others argue. I’m still recovering from the whole “boner” thing. But this cover has amused for prurient reasons almost from the get-go…I remember seeing in the pre-internet days a photocopy of the cover that had been…artistically altered to more accurately portray the perceived after-the-fact gag. (Kids, ask your grandparents about how visual humor was traded around socially in Ye Olden Tymes thanks to the company’s Xerox machine.)

So…there you go, a fresh new edition of Betty and Me #16 for you to inflict on the unwary, you sickos. Am I going to get one myself? Of course I am, I’m no dummy. And Archie Comics ain’t no dummy, either…this is going to grab some eyeballs, in store and online, and will probably bring more attention to this new endeavor than just, say, reprinting whichever comic that was with Archie, Betty and Veronica sipping straws out of the same drink. (Which I’m sure they’ll do eventually, don’t worry.)

And speaking of other potential facsimiles, I’d like them to do Jughead’s Folly #1 from 1957, possibly the first mention of Elvis Presley in comics:


…and the later Jughead’s Fantasy three issue series would be nice too. But I’m sure we’ll get “first appearance of Cheryl Blossom” and “first appearance of Jughead’s cousin Souphead” before that happens. One can still dream.

• • •

So the last time we met I lamented the fact that we’d probably never get Atari Force action figures. Well, maybe no official figures exist, but esteemed blogging comrade Johanna informed me that she had an Atari Force figure made for her some time ago…specifically “Dart,” seen in this picture flanked by custom figures of DC Comics’ Cinnamon and Scott McCloud’s Zot!:


Here’s a better look at Dart:


Nicely done, and Johanna’s lucky to have these. Now all I need is someone to build a Babe for me, I’ll be set.

• • •

I should note the passing of comics artist Don Perlin, who passed away this week at the age of 94. He was a dependable draftsman, supplying solid work on titles like Defenders and Ghost Rider.

In fact, not too long ago I was rereading the second run of Man-Thing that began in ’79, of which Perlin drew several issues. It’d been a while since I read it, and my memory of Perlin’s work was that it wasn’t suited to the title. However, upon reconsideration the artwork was fine…a little “superhero-y” for what was nominally a horror book, but he did a better job than I recalled. I think part of the problem was the bright coloring, which didn’t help with the mood much. Ah well.

So long, Don, and my condolences to his family and friends.

Ramona, Enrique, and Leroy.

§ February 26th, 2024 § Filed under obituary, publishing § 7 Comments


Legendary comics artist Ramona Fradon passed away this week at the age of 97, having only retired from her popular commissions practice a month or two ago. If you’ve seen any of those commissions, you know her illustrative skill hadn’t lost a step. (The official gallery of art appears to have been taken down, but Google up some of her art…you won’t be disappointed.)

Above is a great shot from Super Friends #28 from 1980, a comic I picked up ages ago as it’s nominally a Swamp Thing appearance. As you can probably infer from the dialogue (by E. Nelson Bridwell), those characters aren’t the real, but rather folks in costumes magically transformed into the beings they were dressed as. But, eh, close enough for horseshoes. It’s a fun story, featuring the various superhero stars of the TV cartoon fighting weird creatures, some of whom likely wouldn’t make it past the network’s Standards and Practices. (“Who’s this?” “Oh, that’s the Demon, he–” [giant DENIED stamp pounded on the script])

She was a great talent, and you can read Mark Evanier’s obituary (and follow-up post) to get an idea of the breadth of her work and the regard in which she was held by her peers.

So long, Ramona.

• • •

Should also note the passing of Enrique Badia Romero, artist of Modesty Blaise and Axa. Sorry I don’t have as much to say about his art, other than that it was expertly crafted and beautiful linework, but this overview should tell you all about him and present nice samples of his ability.

I mean, a long time ago I was selling some Axa books on eBay and they got bounced off for being “too adult” for the general listings. Meanwhile, plenty of Faust and Leather and Lace to be found there. Romero was just too sexy for eBay, I guess!

So long, Enrique.

• • •

So I posted links to my post on the EC Comics revival at Oni Comics on both Bluesky and Xwitter a few days back, It’s pretty unusual for me to use Xwitter now, but I still check in from time to time to say “hello” and of course shill for myself. But this time there was a nice payoff as the literal President and Publisher of Oni Press responded to my tweet:


So there you go, straight from the horse’s mouth, we’re getting the original Leroy-style mechanical lettering in the new EC books. Maybe this may sound odd to anyone not familiar with the original ECs, but that lettering will go a long way to selling this revival to me.

Now he also mentions that other comments I’ve made presaged some of their other plans for the books, and if you read the original post there’s not a whole lot I said that would sort of fit into that category. I’m guessing we’ll be seeing semi-consistent creative teams on some of these books. I don’t know, we’ll see, and I’m looking forward to finding out.

Keith Giffen (1952 – 2023).

§ October 13th, 2023 § Filed under obituary § 14 Comments

So in 1986, after having read Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming’s various, and hilarious, Ambush Bug short stories and mini-series over the previous few years, I was excited to pick this up:


…a new comic book by the same creative team, featuring a fellow accompanied by magical, and invisible, rabbit. Y’know, like Harvey, only slightly more homicidal.


Drawn in a style that was (somewhat infamously) inspired by Argentinian cartoonist José Muñoz, it was an edgier, more darkly humored affair that had promised more issues, but sadly, the one issue was it. (Though there apparently is a short March Hare story in an anthology somewhere that I’ve never seen.)

That may be one of the more obscure Giffen works, a small-press book from the black-and-white boom era of the direct market, but it was one I happily bought off the shelf and have kept in my collection this whole time. (Above scans are from my personal copy.) Another maybe slightly more known job of his was from the late 1970s, when he was paired with writer Gerry Conway to produce some issues of Challengers of the Unknown. Of interest to me here was special guest star, a Mr. S. Thing:


Another fave of mine was Giffen and Fleming adapting Robert Block’s story “Hell on Earth” for DC’s science fiction (and, well, horror too, I guess) graphic novel line:


Told in tight-grid panels with close-ups and shadowy abstract imagery, it made a scary tale that much more creepy.

Much of Giffen’s other work, either as writer or artist or both, is probably much more familiar. Legion of Super-Heroes. Justice League. OMAC. Hero Squared (from Boom!, that was a good’un). Omega Men. Lobo (which he co-created). Dr. Fate. Heckler. Vext. And much, much more…there are very few properties untouched by Giffen at either Marvel or DC.

Giffen’s involvement in pretty much anything guaranteed 1) immense creativity in the storytelling, and 2) good humor, both probably necessary elements for the superhero books he usually worked on. I’m sure he had a lot more wild weirdness to unleash upon the world within that ever-churning mind of his, and it’s a great loss that he had to leave us so soon.

But don’t listen to me. Listen to longtime Giffen cohort J.M. DeMatteis and to what he has to say about his departed friend. And Giffen recently released three episodes of a podcast of him talking about his career and some shenanigans in which he’d been involved. Note: the sound quality is…not great, but listenable, and the actual name of the podcast may be a little upsetting, but wherever Giffen is now, he probably thinks it’s hysterical.

This is a hard one. My condolences to his family, friends, and fans. So long, Keith.

Joe Matt (1963-2023).

§ September 20th, 2023 § Filed under obituary § 5 Comments


Indie cartoonist Joe Matt has passed away, and boy, I was sure into his comics when he was (semi-)regularly putting stuff out into shops. His series Peep Show (as well as the accompanying strip collection of the same name) really took the burgeoning autobiographical comic book genre of the period to its extreme, leaving no personal foible or blemish unrevealed. It could have been unbearable in other hands, but Matt’s appealing illustration and humor kept you reading no matter how low he depicted himself going.

I’m sorry that he passed away as young as he did. My condolences to his family and friends. So long, Joe.

Monday mscellany.

§ August 21st, 2023 § Filed under obituary, zines § 5 Comments

So Matthew recommended the newer comics ‘zine Bubbles, and you know, if you’re gonna get me to buy a ‘zine, put Nancy on the cover:


I also ordered a copy of #2 as well, and I’m sure this is going to result in me collecting up the whole series a couple issues at a time. Anyway, this looks good and thanks to Matthew for pointing it out to me.

• • •

Also wanted to point out that a couple of Joshua Quagmire’s friends have left comments on the post about his passing. They came in a bit later, thus I wanted to point them out so you didn’t miss them.

• • •

I will be getting back to the Final ’80s Countdown later this week. Thank you for your patience!

• • •

I have essentially scaled back my Twitter (or “X”) usage to just using the direct messaging system (as I do a lot of business with folks there still), and no longer post on my main feed. My primary social media shenanigans are on Bluesky, where you can find my account at mikester.bsky.social. I can be found less frequently on Mastodon as well. You can also keep tabs on me at mikesterling.com (or mikester.net).

At this point it’ll take the removal of Elon Musk from Xwitter and a reversal of his decisions (along with removal of the bigots, harassers and other assholes so emboldened on the platform) for me to go back to regular usage, but that seems unlikely. Anyway, if you’re on there, I highly recommend departing for safer and friendlier waters.

Joshua Quagmire (1952-2023).

§ June 14th, 2023 § Filed under obituary § 14 Comments


Was very surprised to learn via Mark Evanier’s website that Joshua Quagmire, creator of Cutey Bunny, had passed away.

Cutey Bunny was a favorite of mine, after picking up that initial run of comics in the mid-1980s. Every page was just crammed wall-to-wall with fun art and funny (and even better, corny) jokes. Quagmire’s personality just shone through wherever his pen touched paper and his work was a constant delight.

A silly running gag in a few of the Amazing Heroes Preview Specials was the entries for upcoming issues of Cutey Bunny (or rather Army Surplus Comikz Presents Cutey Bunny) that, well, weren’t actually going to happen far as I can tell. Here’s one from Preview Special #3 (Summer 1986):


He had a website with cartoons and writings ‘n’ such that I would check into once in a while, though he stopped updating it a couple of years back. Still lots of nice work on there (I think maybe a little bit of it NSFW), so check it out while you can.

I can’t remember the circumstances…it may have been me linking to his site before here, but I did have a brief, friendly exchange of emails with Mr. Quagmire several years ago. Struck me as a very nice guy, which fits with everything else I’ve heard about him. A unique talent that I’m going to miss…so long, Joshua.

• • •

Speaking of Mr. Evanier, I also just now saw on his site that the legendary artist John Romita Sr. has also passed away. Another huge loss to the comics industry. Yes, he drew lots of other stuff, but he was the man who redefined Spider-Man’s look after he took over art chores on Amazing when Steve Ditko left. His legacy is not only that wonderful work he’s left behind, but also that it carries on through his son, John Jr., still doing great art today on…Spider-Man, what else?

So long, John.

Al Jaffee (1921-2023).

§ April 13th, 2023 § Filed under mad magazine, obituary § 4 Comments

So on the occasion of Al Jaffee’s 99th birthday (and my 51st) I wrote about getting this wonderful book:


…which remains one of my prize possessions. Like I said in that post, I was but a young Mikester and had to save my allowance a bit to afford this extravagant purchase. But it was money well invested, as the book was provided me many solid laughs over the decades, not just from reading it but simply from remembering it and the joy it brought me.

One of my favorite articles in that book, and one that still comes unbidden to my mind on a more regular basis than you might think, is the one where Jaffee built actual physical models of purported kids’ drawings:


It’s an odd example of Jaffee’s work, as it doesn’t showcase his illustrations (aside from those alleged kid drawings) but it’s memorable nonetheless.

And as per my last post, I found at least one of the MAD paperbacks pictured on Mark Evanier’s site, MAD Monstrosities:


Alas, nearly all my paperback books remain boxed up and not terribly easy to access, but I did manage to find this one. My MAD Book of Magic remains AWOL, but I know it’s around here somewhere. But Monstrosities is filled with great mostly full-page cartooning filled with delightful grotesqueries as only Jaffee can lay them down on the page. I don’t know how long I’ve had this, but I must have picked it up during my prime MAD reading age, so probably around 1979-1981.

Searching my shelves I found another book that, frankly, I’d forgotten I had:


Based on the price sticker in the corner, this was obviously a thrift store pick-up. I’m not the biggest fan of the “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” gags…I mean, I like ’em fine, obviously enough to drop $1.99 on this book, but I always preferred Jaffee’s other efforts. But his artwork is always wonderful to behold, especially in this larger format (and no one does A Prance quite like Jaffee, as you can see on that person on the left of the cover there). Plus, I do have to say I did always like the added touch of an extra empty word balloon for you to add your own Snappy Comeback. Were they as snappy as Big Al’s? Probably not, but it was nice of him to offer you the chance.

Also, come to think of it, that’s kind of a Snappy Answer to a Stupid Question on the cover of that Monstrosities book, isn’t there? It’s also interesting that “Snappy Answers” is what’s referenced on the cover, and not “Fold-ins” but, as shown on the cover, you were likely to get more of one than the other in here, and why remind people of a feature that’s not present in the book?

What he’s probably going down in history for is the aforementioned Fold-ins, a play on the “Fold-Outs” you might find in, say, certain gentlemen’s magazines of note. It’s clever, it’s intriguing (as you try to guess the final image before folding and finding out), and a little annoying if you’re a comic shop owner dealing in old comics and magazines and you have to grade down most MADs you get in because the back cover is creased. But, such is the sacrifice for art.

And what art it was. I didn’t even mention his “Hawks and Doves” strips. Or the articles about new, needed inventions or how he drew the absolutely best vomit in the biz. Or that one issue of MAD where instead of a Fold-In he created a gag strip where if you held it up to the light, an image of Alfred E. Neuman would appear. Or his Tall Tales strips. Or the fact that he was drawing for several Golden Age books long before MAD was even around.

He was in all respects a legend. I’m glad he lived such a long life and see how much everyone loved him and appreciated his work.

So long, Al.

This site could have been solely a “Death of Superman” blog, you realize.

§ February 8th, 2023 § Filed under death of superman, obituary § 7 Comments

So reading digital comics paid off…by getting a special print edition as a prize! I subscribe to DC Universe Infinite, DC Comics’ online digital library, which comes in handy when I need a scan from a DC book not in my possession, or when I want to, say, reread a bunch of Animal Man without trying to figure out where my copies are in my currently-in-disarray Vast Comics Archives.

Specifically, I subscribe to the “Ultra” level, giving you wider access to DC’s library, along with special offers and freebies…like this free variant edition trade paperback of the 30th anniversary edition of Death of Superman with art by Ivan Reis:


And here’s the back cover…note, no UPC code or cover price:


Inside the front cover, which I didn’t scan here because doing so would likely screw up the book, is a text introduction thanking recipients of this item for being DC Universe Infinite Subscribers, ballyhooing that this edition is exclusive to said subscribers, how great the digital service is, etc.

The book itself contains, in case you can’t see it on the second scan above, the original “Death of Superman” story from the ’90s, plus the Newstime magazine one-shot (the in-universe Newsweek/Time news magazine), and the Day of Doom mini from the early 2000s. There are also several pages at the back, including images of the original art, photos of related promotional material and merchandise, sketches, and even a nice clear shot of the editorial whiteboard used to plan out the story (that I posted blurry pics of way back when, pulled from a DVD extra feature).

For some reason I was under the impression that this was going to be a variant for the recently-released 30th Anniversary Death of Superman Special. But this is nice too.

• • •

On a sad note, Pat, AKA “Jungle Kitty” of the Star-Trek-Especially-William Shatner “Look at His Butt” podcast, passed away recently. I have been a fan of the show since it first came to my attention back in 2006, even appearing as a guest on one episode. As such I always had a special place in my heart for this show and JK and her partner in Trek-crime Lene, and it’s hard to imagine that we won’t be getting any more of their shared discussion on the franchise.

It honestly was one of those cases where you tuned into the show and it sounded like you were just having a friendly and funny chat with your friends about stuff you really liked. I wrote a more extensive tribute to her and the show that Lene will be reading on the next, and likely final, episode of the podcast, so I won’t repeat it all here. But I can definitely say I’ll miss hearing her voice and her passion for all things Trek.

So long, JK.

I was in my early 20s when I sold the original…sigh.

§ November 14th, 2022 § Filed under death of superman, obituary § 12 Comments

So I briefly mentioned the release of the Death of Superman 30th anniversary comics last week, and wanted to dive into the topic just a tad bit more now that I’ve actually read the thing. “What, Mike talking about the Death of Superman? The devil you say!”

As I’d noted, I picked up the bagged version of the book, which featured this cover inside:


Boy, really pushing that “multiverse” thing. “Hey Marvel, we were here first!” Also, the back cover features the full image that’s on the foldout-cover variant of this comic. And yes, there is indeed a black armband inside, so you can…mourn the death of a fictional character who didn’t really die 30 years and had come back immediately anyway.

The lead story is by Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding, and pretty much retells the events of the original story, mixed in with a l”current time” plot involving the return of Doomsday…or is it? It’s…fine, perfunctory and polished and giving you pretty much what you’d want from a “30th Anniversary of the Death of Superman” story.

A few things of note:

One, Superman’s cuffs, a design leftover from all the misguided fiddling with the man’s costume over the last decade, and left off more often than not in recent comics, are totally back with a vengeance:

Given we get an editorial note that the story takes place in “the not-too distant past” maybe this is just during a period before Supes dumped the cuffs (or at least stopped wearing them as often). In conclusion, they still look terrible. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Two, it takes place before Jon Kent was aged into young adulthood, so a lot of this story is in the context of telling Young Jon all about this event in his parents’ lives that apparently he’d somehow never heard of ’til today. Which seems…unlikely. I mean, I get Supes and Lois not wanting to tell him about it ’til he was older, but, like, Superman is the most famous hero in the DCU, and Jon almost certainly looked up his dad on Lexipedia to see what it said about him. And you think Lexipedia isn’t going to have a long, lurid and loving description of Superman’s apparent death at the hands of Doomsday? C’mon, son.

Three, there sure is a lot of dialogue being shouted at Superman from the sidelines during his big battle. I mean, I guess that’s realistic an’ all, but all I could think of was “all these dummies are in huge danger.”

Four, speaking of the fight, like in the original ’90s comics, the number of panels per page during the fight decreases as it moves long, ending in a series of splash pages. Nice callback.

Five, it’s also an appreciated throwback to How Superman Comics Used to Be. I miss seeing these particular versions of the characters, with their specific personalities, and using supporting characters (like Terrible Turpin) that we hadn’t seen in a bit. Post-Crisis/Early ’90s Superman had a specific look to them, and it’s hard not to contrast them with the Superman books DC is currently producing.

And I’ll drop the numbered item conceit here and note that one of the things I’ve wondered about re: Superman continuity, given the reboots and revamps we’ve had over the last decade or so, was the canonicity of the Death of Superman. I mean, there were references here and there and then eventually a confirmation that it did happen, but never did find out the exact details. Like, was Australian Son of Luthor But Actually Luthor’s Brain in a Younger Body a thing that happened in the New 52 universe, y’know, like that.

Well, this special pretty much establishes that the Death of Superman happened more or less as seen in the comics from 30 years ago, in whatever passes for current DC continuity nowadays. There are other stories in this special that are set in the Superman milieu circa the early ’90s, like a Steel story by Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove. And we get some Ma and Pa Kent, though I think the “current” versions of them are portrayed a bit younger than the grandparent-ish types we got when Byrne rebooted everything. I don’t know, maybe something like what happened in this comic also happened to them. (Or maybe Dr. Manhattan did something when they came back in Doomsday Clock, but don’t get me started.)

I’m sure there’s more to say, but I’ll probably get to it when I address some of your comments from the last post (and probably this post) in my next entry. Oh, did I mention that the bagged version has a white backing board inserted inside that makes the package too big to fit on anything but the top shelf of my new comic racks? That’s annoying.

• • •

There are two voices for Batman that I hear in my head when reading the comics. There’s Adam West, who tends to pop into my head when I’m looking at some of the Silver Age stuff. And then there’s Kevin Conroy, the man who became the Batman to generations of fans. No offense to other great voice artists who’ve taken on the role, but whenever I’d watch one of those direct-to-DVD DC cartoons and it wasn’t Conroy in the Batman role, it just sounded…off to me. He embodied the character in a way so few others have.

We lost him too soon, dying recently at the age of 66. A tragic loss, and my condolences to his family, his friends, and his nearly-endless array of fans. So long, Kevin..

Kevin O’Neill (1953 – 2022).

§ November 9th, 2022 § Filed under obituary § 4 Comments


Legendary omics artist Kevin O’Neill has passed away, leaving behind beautiful work like Nemesis the Warlock, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Marshal Law, and much more. Of special note is, of course, the artwork he provided for The Sinister Ducks.

And as I love reminding folks, his artwork — not just what he drew, but his actual stylewas rejected by the Comics Code Authority when they saw his contribution to Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 (sample of which may be found above). DC published it away without the Code because screw the CCA, the art’s great.

So long, Kevin.

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